Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Wanderer (V)

Here is the end of the poem. Spears were made of ash-wood, and ash-trees are emblematic of fate in Germanic mythology; the poet is drawing liberally on both his cultural traditions, both of which emphasize the shortness and fragility of life in this world.

The warriors have been carried away
By the ash-wood's power,
By death-greedy weapons, by Wyrd in its glory;
And these stone cliffs are beaten by storms.
Frost settles, and grips the ground,
Declaring winter. The dark comes,
The night-shadow darkens; it sends from the North
Raw hail against raised faces.
Everything is earned with pain
In this earth's kingdom; below heaven
It is Wyrd that turns this world.

Brief the time of having, brief the time of home,
Brief the time of family, brief the time of friends.
All the works of this world lose their worth.

So he said to himself, sitting apart in thought:
Well for him who keeps faith, and doesn't uncover too soon
What's deep in his heart, till he knows what to do,
How to mend matters; well for him who looks for mercy --
For our only solid ground --
For the grace of our Father in heaven.

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